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Is the Four Corners Site Inaccurate?

Is the Four Corners Site Inaccurate?

There are only so many places where you can be in four states at once, and Four Corners is one such spot.

Found in the Southwest, this gorgeous area includes nearby mountains, sand dunes, rivers, and forests to explore. So, where is it (and is it really legit)? 

Read on to discover more about the Four Corners Monument and its local area.

Let’s go!

Where Are the Four Corners Located?

In the arid desert region near the San Juan River, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah all come together in one place. Before the United States existed, the four corners region was home to the Anasazi. From 200 BCE to 1500 CE, they dominated trade in the area between native tribes. You can still see where they settled in the mountains surrounding the region.

When the Spanish invaders came in the 1500s, new diseases decimated the local tribes. The Anasazi disappeared. The four corners region became part of colonial Mexico until their independence from Spain in 1821. After 1848, this region became part of the United States. It was part of what the US won from Mexico in the Mexican-American War. 

As the Civil War raged from 1861 to 1865, the US government decided to divide the New Mexico Territory. Congress created the Arizona Territory from the western region of New Mexico Territory in 1863. In 1875, the government tasked surveyor Chandler Robbins with surveying the boundaries of Arizona and New Mexico Territories. 

Congress usually followed latitude and longitudinal lines when drawing state boundaries. For the four corners region, they simply continued the border of Colorado south. When Chandler Robbins went out to survey, he was given the coordinates for what became Four Corners. 

He was to place a marker at 109°3 minutes west, which he did to the best of his ability. More on that later. 

Four Corners Monument in Navajo Nation.
Visit the Four Corners Monument in Navajo Nation.

About the Four Corners Monument

The current Four Corners Monument is part of the Navajo Nation, the Hopi tribal reserve, the Zuni tribal reserve, and the Ute Mountain tribal reserve. The Navajo Nation administers the monument officially called the Four Corners Monument Navajo Tribal Park. 

The park featured a brass marker set in concrete by surveyor Everett Kimmell in 1931. However, in the 1960s, the park was completely rebuilt. It now features a large aluminum disc set in elevated concrete. Surrounding the disc are the flags of the nations and states represented. In all, there are nine flags, the four state flags, the tribal flags, and the American flag. 

In the area, there is no shortage of natural beauty to see. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park are all close and worth visiting. 

Within a 40 minute drive, you can also visit Shiprock, New Mexico, which features the massive Shiprock peak. This peak has special significance to the tribes in the area and is a sight to see. 

Pro Tip: If you’re visiting Arches National Park, use these tips on How to Spend a Day in Arches National Park.

How Far Off Is the Marker?

Because of the lower technology available when the government initially laid the boundaries, the debate didn’t arise until the early 20th century. The original borders were supposed to follow the lines of the meridian precisely. 

New Mexico sued Colorado in 1919, and the case went to the Supreme Court. In 1925, they ruled that the border should follow the faulty markings. This is why the state borders are not perfectly straight. 

The exact location of the marker was supposed to be at exactly 109° 3 minutes west. The surveyor, Chandler Robbins, used the best technology available at the time to do just that. Later controversy came from the fact that people assumed he was supposed to place it at just 109°. He did as ordered, but the argument doesn’t rest there.

Some thought the monument was 2.5 miles east of its intended position. In fact, it’s only around 1800 feet west of the intended location. However, the monument does lie in the exact spot it marks at the intersection of the four states.

It could be assumed. since all four states agree that it does what it says, the monument is exactly where it’s supposed to be. But, science/math may disagree.

Four Corners National Monument
Stand in four states at once in Four Corners National Monument.

Is the Four Corners Worth Visiting?

Four Corners is in a rural area with very few amenities you expect at national parks. The closest gas station is 30 miles away, and there is no water or electricity at the park. There’s a market selling the work of local artists and bathrooms available. 

Check the Navajo Nation Parks website for specific hours. Entry is $5 per person, credit cards only, and they don’t accept National Parks passes. 

Is it worth the trip? That depends on your reasons for going. It’s a beautiful spot and gives you a chance to be in four states at once. That’s pretty much it as far as the attraction goes. If you’re looking for a wow factor, more interesting natural wonders are nearby. 

Kids will love jumping from state to state and learning the area’s history. Fair warning, though. You’re allowed to take three photos at the monument, and that’s it. 

Most reviews of the monument make it sound like a tourist trap or not worth the trip. But, if you are staying in the area or traveling, it’s worth it for a few photos and a bucket list item. Small, out-of-the-way monuments are what make traveling fun for some people. For them, this is the place to stop. 

Pro Tip: RVers love Arizona! While exploring Arizona, camp at one of these 11 Free Camping in Arizona Spots You’ll Love.

So Is the Four Corners Inaccurate?

All of that said, there are great reasons to visit the monument. It may not be worth the drive for everyone, but you’ll want to go if you love Americana. 

So, is the four corners monument inaccurate? Since the states have agreed, it seems like the answer is simple. Four Corners Monument Navajo Tribal Park is definitively the one place you can be in four states at once. 

Have you been to the Four Corners National Monument? Tell us about it in the comments!

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Dan

Tuesday 5th of April 2022

Went there as a kid in 1969. It was an open site with no entrance fee. Went there years later with my own kids, fenced in and closed for the day. Tourist trap controlled by the locals.

Rick L

Tuesday 5th of April 2022

Yes, I was there with a buddy in 1975. At the time, there wasn't anything there except the road leading to it and encircling the marker. It was pretty neat being there all by ourselves in the desert with nothing but the sound of the wind. No buildings or entrance fee.

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